DALLAS – John Konchar left Purdue Fort Wayne as the school's career leader in points, rebounds and field goals. He was also a four-time All-Summit League performer for the Mastodons.
Konchar, 23, wasn't among the players selected in the 2019 NBA draft, but he did land a two-way contract with Memphis, an arrangement allowing him to spend a maximum of 45 days in the NBA and play the bulk of this season with the Grizzlies' NBA G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle.
But on Nov. 9, Konchar made his NBA debut, playing 6 minutes, 47 seconds in a home game against Dallas, making him the first PFW product to play in the league. His parents, who live in the Chicago area, didn't make it to Memphis for his debut, but they did catch his late-game stint on TV. He's since played in five more games for the Grizzlies – averaging 1.2 points in limited action – and now finds himself feeling more comfortable in the NBA.
“I would say I was a little hesitant then, but I've played a couple games since then and I feel like I've calmed down a little bit,” Konchar said during a recent road game in Dallas. “Just getting time with the Hustle, getting acclimated and everything, it's been really good.”
He has played 19 games for the Hustle, who play in Southaven, Mississippi, just 13 miles south of Memphis. He's averaging 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals.
“For the Hustle, I try to do all the little things like rebound, get the ball to the open man and all that,” Konchar said. “So, just (bring) a winning mentality. Yeah, it's only a 20-minute drive between (Memphis and Southaven). It's a great deal. I'm having fun and when they (the Grizzlies) need me, I'm already there. When I get called up, we run the same offense and defense (as the Hustle do).”
A star at PFW between 2015 and 2019, he started his collegiate career by being named to the Summit League's All-Newcomer Team and garnering the first of four consecutive all-league selections. And by the time he departed Fort Wayne, he had scored 2,165 points and corralled 1,150 rebounds, two records that appear they might stand for some time.
“It was always fun,” Konchar said of playing for the Mastodons. “I had different roles every single year. My first year, I was kind of a cutter, slasher and defender. And then I grew into a point guard the last two years. It's really helped me as a professional so far.”
As far as good situations go, Konchar couldn't have stepped into a better one with Memphis. The Grizzlies had the NBA's second-youngest roster with an average age of 24.1 years, a number that dropped further with the trade of veterans Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill and Andre Igoudala to Miami at the trade deadline last week.
Few expected Memphis to be much of a factor in the Western Conference this season. But Memphis, led by new coach Taylor Jenkins, is in eighth place in the Western Conference, buoyed by the emergence of top draft pick Ja Morant, who looks like a lock to win NBA Rookie of the Year, and solid play from others such as second-year big man Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies' 2018 top pick who is now healthy after missing 24 games due to injury as a rookie.
And despite playing just five NBA games, Konchar has already made an impression on his teammates.
“He does a little bit of everything,” Grizzlies fifth-year guard Tyus Jones said. “He's an athlete. He's smart. He understands the game. He can defend. He rebounds well for his size and can knock down the open shot. He's a phenomenal player.”
Konchar's mentality is simple, do whatever he can to help that team win.
“No complaints at all. I'm in for whatever,” Konchar said.